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The Effective Business

In the first of a series of articles for Cambridge Business, I look at how individual departments’ drive for efficiency can undermine what’s going on in the rest of the business.

It starts the minute a company gets beyond the size where everyone sits in one room and can happen at any time thereafter.  It happens because people are given different areas of responsibility and different targets, and then go off, appoint their own staff and set up their own systems and processes.  Somewhere along the way, managers become so focused on their own goals that they lose sight of what the company as a whole is trying to achieve.  They focus on being very efficient at what they are doing, but this may not be the right thing for the business.  Consequently, even though they feel they are doing the best they can, gaps appear between what one department is doing and what another expects of it. The result is either a bottleneck or a missing piece of the puzzle.  That’s when managers and staff begin to complain about each other. Yet they are all part of the same extended team and presumably, at the end of the day, they all want the same thing: for the company to be successful.

Eventually many companies will call in a firm of management consultants to review their processes and infrastructure.  We have known big projects that have re-engineered whole sections of a business and put in new computer systems across the board, with significant financial and human cost.  Sometimes they have even halted the day-to-day work of the business while the new systems were going into place, only to find that they needed further adjustment after going live.

Yet the solution can be relatively simple.  First, it takes seeing the company as a complete system, in which every department, person, process and system plays an integral part.  Understanding what the business is trying to achieve then allows you to drill down and find what we in Bardwyck call the “conflict points” – where something is misaligned with the overall goals.  It is then fairly straightforward to bring them into line so that they work alongside all the other processes and people in the business – so they are not just efficient, but are also truly effective.

To find out more, visit Cambridge Business, May edition.

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